gg: Now, are these contributions by you so embarrassing you don’t want people to see them?
aa: Pretty much. [Groth laughs.] For the most part, although the turnip story that I did in Hi-Horse #2 – 4 was an expansion of this one page strip that I did in that book that was called Colonial Comics. It’s still embarrassing, but not as much so as some of the other ones.
gg: After you discovered RAW, where’d you proceed from there? Did you start buying other comics, did you start immersing yourself in this world?
aa: I never really immersed myself until later. I think it was off and on. I think, pretty shortly after that, I discovered Dan Clowes and Chris Ware, and of course was pretty amazed by their stuff. But then also in high school I got really into Lynda Barry and Matt Groening and Zippy the Pinhead. So I guess I was reading some art comics before RAW.
gg: What was your cultural diet like in like high school and college? What were you into and what were you reading?
aa: Well, let’s see. It was somewhat eclectic. A lot of the music I listened to in high school I probably don’t want to admit to, like Pink Floyd and Cat Stevens. I liked some punk rock and in 10th grade for a while I went through sort of a weird metal phase where I was really into Dio [Groth laughs] and then I was really into the Cure in high school but that’s kind of a random selection. I liked a lot of stuff that was just called “alternative” back then, when it actually was alternative, and now that word has a completely different meaning, at least for music. Elvis Costello was my favorite pretty consistently through high school. And then, let’s see. I’m trying to remember what I was reading that I liked.
Ever since college, one of my favorite authors has been Edith Wharton. I’ve just been thinking about that lately, trying to figure out what it is about her that I like so much, but I guess I have to go back and read those books and figure it out. But I think, partly it’s just her use of language and description.
gg: Maybe it’s her mirth. [Laughter.] So, did you have an impulse to actually tell stories? Did you come at it more from the visual side, the side of making images or did you primarily want to tell stories?
aa: Well, I think now I definitely approach it more from the visual side. I guess that was always true, although when I was in high school and college I tried to write, stories and poetry, things like that, which are just so incredibly awkward and embarrassing. And that was one of the things that I discovered about doing comics, that it was a lot easier to just do something that was more spontaneous in a way, even though it ends up being more work — and less awkward. So, I think that I’m just more of a visual thinker. I’ve been wanting, for a while, to try to learn more about writing, try to learn as much as I can on my own, but I feel like I need some classes. [Laughter.] I’m definitely a classtaker. You know —
gg: Are you?
aa: Yeah, a lot of people in comics tend to be self-taught and maybe that’s partly because there’s not a lot of good alternative comics education in this country. But I try to take classes and fit them to my needs. That’s what I did with the academy. I took the illustration classes and I learned a lot about doing actual illustration, but I was also trying to use it for my own creative development. And I think the fact that I was a little bit older when I was taking those classes was the best thing — I knew what I wanted out of it more.
gg: Do you think you’re an analytical thinker? Do you break things down?
aa: Not really.
gg: Did you always sort of drift to alternative and non-mainstream modes of culture?
aa: Yeah, yeah, I think so.
gg: Was this because of your family environment, because of your mother’s own predispositions?
aa: Yeah, I think so. And my dad too. My family is definitely not normal. [Laughs.]
gg: Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
aa: Well, you know, just in terms of sensibility.
gg: Do you have any siblings?
aa: Yeah, I have two older half-sisters who were 15 and 18 when I was born so it was more like having extra adults in my family. And then I have another half-sister who’s 15 years younger than me, so growing up it was basically like being an only child. Sometimes even more so when all the focus is on you, when there’s all these adults around you. My sisters were like extra parents.